Published September 9, 2011

Ragnar Egilsson

Now, I am not a food snob. Food snobs probably make jokes like “the meal was less degustation than a disgustination” (do they?) and douse their morning quail egg omelette in Verjus and Lambda oil (probably not…). I’m guessing they won’t find themselves at 4 AM last weekend, propped up on the fridge door trying to decide if that week old shrimp sandwich suspended in grey liquid might still be north of a stomach pump.
Now that I’ve razed your appetite, you can see why a lovely, Spartan sandwich place like St. Paul’s could appeal to me and my doctor. It’s a pity that it is, as of yet, only open for lunch service but I will take what I can get since I think we’re all getting a little tired of the sloppy manwiches at Hlöllabátar/Nonnabátar and the cardboard of the American sandwich chains.
St. Paul’s is a recent addition to the Icelandic sandwich scene started by Scouse drummer Paul Maguire—who’s hip, greying and frizzy and looks a little like the third Blonde Redhead brother. It’s a literal hole in the wall and only a little out of the way down the street from the Reykjavík Art Museum and within spitting distance of the harbour (not that you’ll be doing much spitting). The kitchen is crammed up against the counter under a surprisingly high ceiling and felt like being inside one of those long, straight Tetris blocks that you could always find use for. Likewise, the tiny white tile kitchen somehow accommodates a large high-end stove and a length of cupboards. Sadly, those physics-bending properties don’t extend to the seating that only rooms three and is propped up against the windowsill. Luckily there’s always the option of taking it to go and having a seat on the pier.
The focus is on baguettes, along with a couple of types of wraps and a soup of the day. I had the figure-friendly Brie, jam and bacon combo (950 ISK), while the hired help had the coronation chicken wrap (890 ISK). And we both went with the basil tomato soup (890 ISK), heavy on the basil and marginally cooler than a pool of lava. My sandwich was rich but the redcurrant jelly cut through the creaminess, the bread was fresh and they didn’t skimp on the Brie considering the price. The Indian-style coronation wrap chicken in a chutney-yoghurt sauce (some guesswork about the exact ingredients) was a little slighter but made up for it with spicy goodness (not hot though)
My only gripe is the “Since 1971” (or whatever year it was). It’s silly. I get that the owner is probably referencing the year of his birth, but this is false advertising and it grates.
It’s not health food but the ingredients are fresh and filling. St. Paul’s is a nice addition to the lunch scene in downtown Reykjavík, but I would like to see a more adventurous selection and I’m curious to see where they take it (may I at least recommend adding a Vietnamese sandwich to the selection while we’re waiting for the first proper Bánh mì place? (I seem to be addicted to parentheses)).

What We Think: Indulge in a good lunch sandwich without breaking the bank
Flavour: Anglo-Indian and French
Ambiance: Small and to-go
Service: Intimate, casual, good

Rating: 3.5/5

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